Who Will Win This Season’s Liga 1 Title?
The Liga 1 title race is heating up with Romania’s most successful team, Steaua Bucharest leading last year’s champions by just 3 points.
In this article we take a look at both teams and analyse their chances of winning the division this season, with an honourable mention of Uni Craiova, the team hoping to take advantage of any late slip-ups by the country’s two most dominant teams.
Steaua Bucharest: The Season so Far
At the beginning of the season FCSB were just behind CFR Cluj in the sports betting online odds, with many pundits tipping them to come up just short in the title race.
However, at the time of writing they lead last season’s champions by 3 points with a vastly superior goal difference.
Much of FCSB’s success has been down to their ability to outscore their opponents. Despite having conceded 9 goals more than Cluj, FCSB have scored 20 more goals than Cluj – the highest tally in the division.
The two top scorers in the division thus far have come from FCSB with Florin Tanase leading the way on 16 strikes and Dennis Man just behind on 14.
However, a spanner was thrown into the works just last month when Mann was poached by Italian giants Parma for an initial fee of €13 million – making him the most expensive sale from Liga 1 ever.
Whilst Mann has been struggling to make an impact in Serie A, Tanase has stepped up to the plate in trying to fill the void left by his compatriot.
He has struck 16 times in just 20 appearances this season, but will need to add a few more to his tally between now and the end of the campaign to ensure FCSB lift the title.
(Florin Tanase has been exceptional so far this season for FCSB, but with the departure of Dennis Mann to Parma, there is now even more responsibility on Tanase’s shoulders.)
CFR Cluj: The Season so Far
It has been a challenging season for Cluj thus far with the champions competing on a number of fronts. The Transylvanian side’s European campaign ended at the group stage with a third-place finish after disappointing defeats to Young Boys and Roma.
The extra strain of European competition has left them somewhat functional, if not spectacular in Liga 1. That said, they still remain within touching distance of FCSB, trailing by 3 points having played a game less.
Offensively the champions have looked sluggish, scoring just 31 goals in 24 games but at the other end of the pitch their defence has been impenetrable. Their goal has been breached just 12 times at an average of 0.5 goals conceded a game, which leads us on to…
Defensive solidity has been the staple of Cluj’s season so far and much of that has come from the Portuguese speaking pair of Camora and Paulo Vinicius.
At left-back, club captain Camora has set the tone for a miserly defence, marshalling his teammates superbly whilst also adding dynamism in the final third with overlapping runs.
Vinicius, who has played slightly fewer games than Camora has been equally impressive whenever he has featured for Cluj. The 6 foot 2 Brazilian has shown himself adept at reading the game, extinguishing opposition attacks before they even have a chance to get going.
The pair will need to continue their excellent form in the remaining fixtures to give Cluj the platform to go on and get the wins they need in some tricky looking ties.
(Aside from in Europe, Cluj’s defence has looked impregnable at times this season.)
Universitatea Craiova: The Season so Far
Last season’s runner-ups have a tough task on their hands to steal the title away from FCSB and Cluj this time out, but if both slip up, they could be primed to pounce.
Their form in recent games has provided them with the platform to be in with a shout in the title reckoning. Similarly to Clug, a tight defence has allowed them to pick up 10 points from the last 15 available and could stand them in good stead for the season defining clashes that lie ahead.
Offensively Craiova haven’t been anywhere near the scintillating heights of FCSB, but the goals of midfielder Alexandru Cicaldau have helped them to edge out their opponents in tight clashes.
The former Viitorul man made the move to Craiova in 2018 and is arguably playing the best football of his career this season. His eight goals from midfield have been key to his team’s success, but they will need more of the same in the weeks ahead.
Italian ‘keeper Mirko Pigliacelli has also helped his side’s cause with a string of superb saves and confident performances to bolster Craiova’s steely defence.
(Craiova held Cluj to a goalless draw earlier in the season, but they’ll need to go one better than that in the coming weeks if they are to harbour realistic hopes of a title bid.)
The Run In
The tight nature of the league so far this season has left everything to play for in the final knockings of the campaign. Here’s a look at the remaining fixtures for each club:
Gaz Metan Medias (12th) – H
UTA Arad (7th) – A
CFR Cluj (2nd) – H
Univ. Craiova (3rd) – H
Sepsi Sf. Gheorghe (4th) – A
FC Arges (9th) – H
UTA Arad (7th) – A
Poli Iasi (16th) – H
Din. Bucuresti (13th) – H
Univ. Craiova (3rd) – A
FC Botosani (5th) – H
Gaz Metan Medias (12th) – A
UTA Arad (7th) – H
FCSB (1st) – A
CFR Clug (2nd) – H
The respective run-ins of each club paint a very different picture, with the current leaders FCSB having arguably the toughest remaining fixtures of any team.
By comparison, Cluj look to have an easier set of fixtures barring their clashes against both FCSB and Craiova. If the reigning champions can win their game in hand and keep things tight at the back for the remainder of the season, they have to be the favourites for the title.
A perfect finish for FCSB is all that can really guarantee them top spot at the end of the season, and with the difficulty of their remaining fixtures, that looks likely.
Whilst Craiova’s task to overtake both Cluj and FCSB seems unlikely, they will have a major bearing on the destination of the title. With clashes against both clubs to come, Craiova could be this season’s kingmakers.